Whether you’re looking for a Michelin-star restaurant or a laid-back prata stall, these green precinct has got you covered.

IN-GARDEN GRUB

Overview
Choose from upscale dining options such as Corner House (www.cornerhouse.com.sg), helmed by award-winning chef Jason Tan. His elegant Gastro-Botanica cuisine gives equal weight to both protein and botanical elements on the plate (three-course business luncheon from $48). Then there’s the aptly-named Halia Restaurant (thehalia.com/sbg/halia-at-sbg) at the Ginger Garden with signature nosh like The Ginger Garden ($12) and Spice Islands marinated lamb loin ($44). Adjourn to new extension Villa Halia for The Wine Bar, the Courtyard and the Gallery Room.

The Dunearn (House 1F, NUSS Guild House, Bukit Timah)
Our go-to restaurant for contemporary Western cuisine whenever we’re in the area. Choose to dine out at the terrace for a splendid view of the lush foliage. Go for their executive set weekday lunch menus (from $28) or a create-your-own prix fixe dinner (from $45). www.nuss.org.sg/restaurant.php?rid=6

Casa Verde (Nassim Gate, Visitor Centre)
Craving wood-fired pizzas (from $24) and other classic Italian dishes? Head to the newly renovated Casa Verde (A.K.A. Green House) with your family and pooch in tow. Fusion dishes like laksa aglio olio ($18) and heritage chow like Hainanese pork chop ($13) are also on the menu. www.casaverde.com.sg

Food Canopy (Raffles Building, Nassim Gate)
Remember to return your tray at this eco-conscious food court with a green roof. Tuck into ayam penyet ($5.50), cold crab (from $20), eggs ben ($8.90) and truffle fries ($5.90). foodcanopy.com.sg

Evans Lodge (26 Evans Road)
The quaint building is a student hostel and also home to popular eateries like Wildfire Burgers, Assembly Coffee and 24-hour Mr Prata. However, the place has been in shambles since last August, when the master tenant was put into voluntary liquidation. At press time, The Wine Company has moved out. In the meantime, we soaked up the charm while savouring a cappucino ($4.50) and PB&J cupcake ($7) at Assembly Coffee. We went for seconds at Mr Prata: masala prata ($3), fish and chicken chip ($7.50), Mr Prata mutton set meal ($7.50) and Italian prata ($7.50).

Must-visits

Swan Lake
Built in 1866 and formerly known as the Main/First Lake. When we visited, two beautiful mute swans were gliding gracefully on the picturesque water. Cross the bridge and look for The Dell, an area dating back to 1882 originally designed to cultivate and showcase ferns. This hidden nook is undisturbed, save for the sound of traffic.

National Orchid Garden
Usually $5/entry, but ours was waived due to the school holiday promo (till 3 Jan). Inside, you’ll find over 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of orchids”“products of the Gardens’ orchid breeding programme that began in 1928. Head to the Tan Hoon Siang Misthouse for rare, unique and award-winning orchid cultivars; and the VIP Orchid Garden for the Dendrobium Memoria Princess Diana.

Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Museum (Holttum Hall )
Where professor Eric Holttum (Director 1925-1949) developed an innovative orchid breeding technique that stimulated orchid industries throughout the region. Step inside to view interactive exhibits highlighting the Gardens’ rich heritage.

Rain Forest
We felt very small in this 6ha primary tropical forest as some trees were a massive 50m and older than modern Singapore. An easy-to-walk pathway leads you to rattans, fruit trees and the gigantic jelutong. Nature buffs, you’ll find rare plants in this multi-layered ecosystem. Guided tours every second Saturday of the month.

SERENE CENTRE (10 Jalan Serene)

Overview
Home to Bibinogs Kids Academy (#02-05/06), Decofix DIY Store (#01-06/07), Brick Station (#02-16A) for your Lego needs, hair salons and even a McDonald’s (#01-01). This humble
mall has served the Bukit Timah community–and students–since the early 1980s.

La Petite Cuisine (#01-02)
A Serene Centre stalwart since 2006. The wooden tables and chairs are dressed in a retro red-and-white checked tablecloth, with a red brick feature wall. Come here for homely, affordable French dishes like escargot (six pieces) with croissant and salad ($15) and confit de canard with gratin potato ($17.50). All prices nett. www.fb.com/lapetitecuisinebistro

Island Creamery (#01-03)
Way before the explosion of the artisanal ice cream parlours, we had to take a bus ride to Serene Centre for our Island Creamery fix. Its signature flavours include teh tarik, pulut hitam, Horlicks, Tiger sorbet and pineapple tart. Order a whole mudpie ($45), baked Alaska ($35) or Reverso ($38, fresh cream with chocolate balls and sponge fingers) for your chill party. www.islandcreamery.com

#OOTD spots

Evolution Garden
We travelled back in time, over three million years ago, to be exact, and encountered the ‘dinosaurs’ of the plant world. There are replicas of giant clubmosses, or prehistoric trees, and real fossilised remains of ancient trees. Pause for a moment beneath the bridge for your mandatory #OOTD shot.

Waterfall (Ginger Gardens)
It’s manmade, but cool nonetheless. Enter the cave and have someone snap you behind the curtain of flowing water. Leave out the geotag on your photo for added mystery.

Burkill Hall (within National Orchid Garden)
Wide-angle lens recommended. History geeks, this architectural beauty is being restored to its original state–an all-white building that’s possibly the last Anglo-Malayan plantation-style house in the region.

Gol den Shower Arches (within National Orchid Garden)
Visit during a quieter time as it seems like everyone else is taking a #selfie or #OOTD here. The yellow flowers add a golden fringe to the verdant display.

Symphony Lake
When there are no concerts on the green, a low-angle shot of you meditating on the bridge or by the lake decorated with floating water lilies will look awesome on Instagram.

 

CLUNY COURT (501 Bukit Timah Road)

Overview
Just a hop and a skip away from the Bukit Timah gate of the Gardens and Botanic Gardens MRT station. Houses a Cold Storage (#01-02), various homeware/furnishing/gift/kids’ stores, and designer labels like Hanna Lee (#02-15) and Simone Irani (#02-17). A new addition is gourmet grocer The Fishwives (#01-04A).

Da Paolo Gastronomia (#01-01)
Easily recognisable by its al fresco awning. The gourmet deli cafe is a perfect pit stop before or after your trek through the Gardens, or your introduction to the Bukit Timah stretch. We like their authentic Italian coffee (from $4.50 for espresso) with a soup and pizza slice set ($9.80). www.fb.com/Gastronomia.BukitTimah

Relish (#02-01)
One of Singapore’s earliest quality burger joints, having opened in 2007. Order a blue cheese and William pear burger ($21.90), or go for the open-faced BBQ char siew pork burger ($21.40). Share some hand-cut onion rings with curry mayo ($9.90) and a churro waffle ($15.30) coated in cinnamon sugar and served with a sea salt dark chocolate salt. Helmed by chef Wilin Low. www.fb.com/RelishByWildRocket

National Icons

Vanda Miss Joaquim
This hybrid orchid (Burmese Vanda teres + Malayan Vanda hookeriana; var. Agnes) was named our national flower in 1981. The perennial bloom was selected for its vibrant colours, hardiness and resilience to portray the Singapore spirit.

Tembusu Tree
Look carefully at your $5 note (Portrait series). That’s the exact same tree that’s standing on Lawn E. The evergreen Heritage Tree is said to be over 150 years old, and probably older than the Gardens.

Bandstand
The octagonal gazebo was built in 1930. Originally a small hill (33m above sea level), this was where regimental bands performed in the 1860s.

Heritage rubber tree
Sadly, the last heritage rubber tree toppled in 2013 due to rot at its base. But thirdgeneration saplings planted nearby (behind the Green Pavilion) still carry on its legacy. In 1877, the first rubber tree took root in the Gardens. The latex business was a major part of our economy in the early 1900s.

Girl on a Bicycle
Sculpted by Sydney Harpley and donated by Singapore’s first chief minister David Marshall, the carefree depiction was installed in 1987 (Lawn O). Others in the series are Girl on a Swing (1984) and Lady on a Hammock (1990).

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